For those of you just tuning in, in June I bought a 2007 Honda Fit Sport from a private party, and paid $10,500 courtesy of an auto loan through my credit union. I know, I know, car loans are bad. But in my case my student loan interest rate is 6%, my auto loan interest rate is 2%, and I'm not badass enough to go completely carless just yet.
But the cost of a car is more than what you pay for it. First and most obviously there's the cost of gas. And then there's a whole host of other fees like title and registration, emissions and safety inspections, taxes, insurance, servicing, and unexpected repairs. It's easy to sweep those costs under the proverbial rug because they're generally not charged in neat monthly increments (well, maybe insurance is).
Gas is an easy win. Before my Fit I was driving a hand-me-down Land Rover LR2, where the gas tank was twice as big and I'm pretty sure I filled it up more often. I think the gas tank on my Fit is 12 gallons and when I'm only commuting it's three weeks between fill-ups. I can get this down even further the more I bike.
Then there's taxes. Where we live we pay an annual vehicle value tax. Let me break this out into a table so it's easier to compare:
The Fit costs less than half as much in taxes as did the LR2. Not at all coincidentally, the assessed value of the Fit is less than half. (Those numbers are almost exactly the same ratio. I checked.) Total due is more because they charge about $16 for a yearly registration.
Then there's maintenance. I've got one more pre-paid maintenance at the Honda dealer where the previous owner serviced the car. So I got the oil change for free, and it was $16 for a state emissions and safety inspection. But I let them talk me into other preventative stuff like changing the air filters, so it cost me $167.68. A lesson is learned: car dealerships are almost always a ripoff.
And that brings me to my final point, a question for my readership:
I'm considering purchasing the Helm service manual for my vehicle's model year. The down side is that it costs $56.50, maybe more with shipping. The upside is that 1) I'm sure I can perform a bunch of easy maintenance stuff myself, thus saving lots of money, and 2) it will teach me a whole lot about my car, thus increasing my general competence level and my automotive competence level specifically.
I'm pretty sure the service manual is worth it, but I'd really like a second opinion. Thoughts?